ACC Weekend Preview: February 17-18

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 16th, 2018

Somehow, there are just three weekends of play left in the ACC regular season. While Virginia appears to have the regular season title locked up, there is still much to be decided below the Cavaliers in the standings. (All rankings via KenPom.)

Saturday, February 17

Not Even Jim Boeheim is Sure Where the Orange Are Headed (USA Today Images)

  • Syracuse (#50) at Miami (#37). The Orange suffered a home loss to NC State on Wednesday, one they may very well regret they let slip away on Selection Sunday. Syracuse currently has just one Q1 win (a road victory over Louisville) on its resume, so it still has significant work to do to make the NCAA Tournament. The good news? Plenty of opportunities remain, beginning with a trip to Miami tomorrow. The Syracuse defense has been stingy against ACC foes, as usual, allowing ACC opponents to shoot just 39.9 percent from the field (second in the ACC). The issue has been on the offensive end, where the Orange are making just 42.3 percent of their own shots. If they want to score enough to win key games down the stretch, they need Tyus Battle’s sidekick, Oshae Brissett, to continue his recent scoring pace. Over his past three games, Brissett is averaging 18.7 PPG and shooting 50 percent from the three-point line.
  • NC State (#55) at Wake Forest (#84). Ask any Wolfpack fan what comes after an important win? The answer would be a loss to a bad team. It has certainly been that way in much of NC State’s past, and has even reared its ugly head in Kevin Keatts’ first season at the helm in Raleigh (e.g., beat Arizona, lose to Northern Iowa.) So, forgive them if they aren’t exactly looking forward to a trip to Winston-Salem this weekend after an important road win at Syracuse earlier this week. NC State handled the Demon Deacons in Raleigh in mid-January, thanks to 22 points from Omer Yurtseven. And while the sophomore big man has been outstanding for most of this season, he has also begun to slow a bit. In his last four games, Yurtseven has averaged just 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field (down from 59.5 percent on the season). Keatts will need his big man to have another big night if the Wolfpack are to avoid yet another letdown.

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ACC Weekend Preview: February 3

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 3rd, 2018

While all eyes will be on Minneapolis tomorrow, the ACC gives us some important action for its bubble teams today. (All rankings via KenPom.)

Saturday, February 3

Are the Pack Back? (USA Today Images)

  • Notre Dame (#35) at NC State (#65). The Wolfpack are riding high (as our Matt Auerbach outlined this week) after their huge overtime win in Chapel Hill last weekend. If NC State hopes to snag an eventual NCAA Tournament bid, it still needs to pick things up on the defensive end. In nine ACC games, Kevin Keatts’ defense is allowing teams to shoot a healthy 49.2 percent from the field, the worst such mark in the conference. In fact, NC State does not have a single rotation player with a Defensive Rating below 108.0. It’s uncertain whether the Wolfpack will be able to fix this issue, especially given that the cause of it is also what has made them so effective offensively this year. First, the blossoming of Omer Yurtseven into an offensive star has resulted in more minutes, but he is hopeless when pulled away from the basket and forced to guard in space. Secondly, Keatts has been playing two of his three smaller guards (Braxton Beverly, Markell Johnson and Lavarr Batts, Jr.) on the floor together. This leads to defensive mismatches, specifically against the less-physical Beverly. It will be interesting to see how the Pack perform against a Notre Dame team that will be deliberate and wants to limit possessions without injured star Bonzie Colson.
  • Miami (#32) at Virginia Tech (#39). The Hokies have won three straight games to surge back into the NCAA Tournament discussion. The key all season for Buzz Williams’ team has been making threes, and his guys have gotten their shooting stroke back lately. During this three-game winning streak, Virginia Tech is making 42.2 percent from long-range and nailing nearly 13 threes per game. In their eight prior games, the Hokies made just 30.4 percent from distance and correspondingly went 4-4. They’ll look to stay hot against Miami, who will be without star Bruce Brown for the foreseeable future. The match-up to look for  in this game is down low — can Miami’s Dewan Huell (116.6 ORtg, 54.8% eFG) get the offensively-challenged Hurricanes some easy baskets against a Virginia Tech front line that only features Kerry Blackshear?

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Red Hot NC State Charging Toward an NCAA Bid

Posted by Matt Auerbach on January 31st, 2018

While Virginia’s victory at Duke last Saturday afternoon deservedly dominated conference headlines, NC State was busy continuing its underpublicized midseason renaissance just nine miles down the road in Chapel Hill. The Wolfpack, winners of five of their last seven games, now own an NCAA Tournament resume that boasts equity in a trio of quality wins (Arizona on a neutral court; Duke at home; North Carolina on the road) that few bubble teams will approach.

All Smiles for NC State in Chapel Hill on Saturday (USA Today Images)

Kevin Keatts’ team looked dead and buried just a few short weeks ago. After a 30-point drubbing in South Bend dropped NC State to 0-2 in league play, the first-year coach has in the interim engineered a significant reversal of fortune. Playing an up-tempo, unselfish brand of basketball, the Wolfpack to date are taking exceptionally good care of the basketball (49th nationally in turnover percentage), sharing the wealth (six players average more than eight points per game), and have developed into a team-first bunch of veterans who believe that they can play with anybody. That shift in culture has not only made the Pack a joy to watch this season, but it has also been the impetus to yielding results that have exceeded expectations.

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ACC Weekend Preview: January 27

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 27th, 2018

A pair of in-state matchups and a huge bubble game in South Bend would normally be enough excitement to make for an intriguing ACC weekend. Add in a top-five match-up that features the best offense against the best defense in college basketball and you have a weekend of ACC hoops that is absolutely must-see.

Saturday, January 27

What to Make of NC State Basketball This Season (USA Today Images)?

  • NC State (#74) at North Carolina (#8). Is there a more interesting NCAA Tournament resume than NC State? The Wolfpack own a neutral court win over Arizona to pair with home wins over Duke and Clemson. They’ve also somehow lost to Northern Iowa on a neutral court and UNC-Greensboro at home. And while taking care of business against a bad team (Pittsburgh) isn’t anything to write home about, it’s something many previous Wolfpack teams have struggled with. Kevin Keatts’ team is still in the NCAA mix mainly thanks to the leap from sophomore big man Omer Yurtseven. In eight ACC games, the young Turk has logged a 27.9 PER with a 62.1 percent eFG rate. In his last three games, Yurtseven is averaging 22.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per outing. Against a relatively inexperienced North Carolina frontcourt, look for Yurtseven to have another big game in one that could be closer than many think.
  • Virginia (#3) at Duke (#4). This might be the pre-Championship Week game of the year in college basketball. The best offensive team in the country will host the best defensive team in the country at (arguably) the toughest place to play in the entire sport. Giddy up. While there are countless individual match-ups worth watching, it’s impossible not to get excited about Marvin Bagley III facing off with his biggest challenge this season, Isaiah Wilkins. Wilkins, who should be a lock for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, leads the country in Defensive Win Shares (2.1) and is putting up an insane 77.2 Defensive Rating, second best in the country behind only Cincinnati’s Gary Clark. His versatility will allow him to follow Bagley out to the perimeter as well as defend him on the blocks. Meanwhile, Bagley’s 2.9 Offensive Win Shares are good for sixth in the nation as he converts over 60 percent of his shots from the field. Can we tip this one off now?

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.08.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 8th, 2018

After the second full weekend of league action, three ACC teams have surged to the top of the standings with identical 3-0 records. Virginia handled North CarolinaClemson edged Louisville in overtime; and Notre Dame staged a frantic rally to overtake Syracuse. While the two ACC preseason favorites — Duke and North Carolina — have struggled to 1-2 records, their misfortune has given other teams an opportunity to make early claims to the league crown. On Sunday night, Miami defended its home court by defeating intrastate rival Florida State to cap off a wild weekend. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Duke suffered another road loss and court-rushing at NC State’s PNC Arena on Saturday night.
(Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: Things were looking bleak for Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon. The Irish were without their two injured senior stars — Bonzie Colson (broken foot) and Matt Ferrell (sprained ankle) — and they came out ice cold early. But Mike Brey‘s team hung around as it always seems to do, pulling out the tough road win thanks to Rex Pflueger‘s putback basket moments before the final horn. The Irish won with defense and hustle, holding the Orange to 39.1 percent field goal shooting and capturing seven steals. Notre Dame also held a huge edge on the boards, including a +13 advantage in offensive rebounds. Considering all of the injuries he is dealing with, Brey has already emerged as a front-runner for ACC Coach of the Year honors.

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ACC Weekend Preview: January 6-7

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 5th, 2018

Conference season is underway and this weekend does not lack for intriguing action around the ACC. Duke looks to show it can win on the road; Miami hopes to bounce back; and there’s a heavyweight match-up to consider in Charlottesville. (All statistics through games of January 4 and all rankings via KenPom.)

Saturday, January 6

Virginia Just Keeps On Keeping On (USA Today Images)

  • North Carolina (#12) at Virginia (#3). In one of the best games of this weekend, Virginia welcomes North Carolina to Charlottesville. While the Tar Heels play a fast tempo that produces 84.9 points per game (26th nationally), they are also aa solid defensive team, allowing just 43.5 percent from two-point range (29th). Combine that with Virginia’s normally excellent defense (allowing 40.9 percent from two-point range and 39.4 percent from the field) and this should be a rock fight. We know Devon Hall and Kyle Guy are Tony Bennett‘s scorers this season, but finding a third option has been solved. In his last four games, point guard Ty Jerome has averaged 17.8 PPG while shooting 57.8 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three-point range.
  • Louisville (#39) at Clemson (#18). Clemson put together a solid non-conference resume last year but the Tigers were done in by close loss after close loss in ACC play. So you can imagine what Tiger fans were thinking as Clemson played in yet another tight game at Boston College on Wednesday night. However, Brad Brownell’s bunch kept it together down the stretch this time and left Chestnut Hill with a win (which is more than Duke can say). Senior Donte Grantham continued his impressive campaign, scoring 23 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the victory. The Tigers will need both Grantham (67.7% eFG) and Elijah Thomas (64.0% eFG) to be precise around the rim against Louisville’s stellar front line defense of Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding. After a rough start to the season, Cardinals point guard Quentin Snider is coming on, shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range over his last nine games. Louisville will need Snider to continue his hot shooting given that the team makes just 33.7 percent of its attempts from long range (232nd nationally.)

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Projecting the ACC’s Breakout Sophomores

Posted by Brad Jenkins on November 2nd, 2017

Every preseason we take a hard look at the rosters around the ACC and wonder which returning players will make the leap from role player to key contributor. Lately we have watched many of those returnees come from relative obscurity to full stardom in just one season: players like Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, 2015-16), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame, 2016-17), and John Collins (Wake Forest 2016-17). In most instances, few outside of the specific program expected such a drastic improvement. For example, raise your hand if you had Collins pegged as one of the ACC’s top three players last October. Thought so. Still, sometimes we can project significant leaps in production by looking at advanced statistics for players who are poised to see an increase in minutes and/or usage this season. For instance, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson surprised many observers by becoming a First Team All-ACC member as a junior. But if you closely examine his sophomore campaign statistics — 122.0 Offensive Rating, 58.7 percent true shooting percentage — it’s easy to see why his contributions shot up with a corresponding increase in playing time. In the second of this two-part series, here’s our list of potential breakout sophomores in the ACC this season.

Sophomore Surges

1) V.J. King – Louisville: 13.5 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 111.3 ORtg, 55.0% true shooting.

V.J. King posted impressive shooting numbers as a rookie which should lead to a major leap in production as a sophomore at Louisville. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

One of many Cardinals with professional-level potential, King posted promising shooting numbers last season from three-point range (42.1%) and at the charity stripe (82.1%). His minutes should double this year and his usage rate (19.6%) figures to increase as well — all meaning that we may be looking at a 14-plus point per game scorer this season in Louisville.

2) Kyle Guy – Virginia: 18.6 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 114.8 ORtg, 49.5% 3FG.

The word is that Guy will perform without his signature man-bun this season, but don’t expect him to slow down without it. Given multiple losses from the Cavaliers’ perimeter attack, Guy should be head coach Tony Bennett’s top guard this year. Guy posted two extremely impressive statistics for a freshman guard — 49.5 percent three-point shooting, and a turnover rate of only 10.6 percent.

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Projecting the ACC’s Breakout Juniors

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 1st, 2017

Every preseason we take a hard look at the rosters around the ACC and wonder which returning players will make the leap from role player to key contributor. Lately we have watched many of those returnees come from relative obscurity to full stardom in just one season: players like Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, 2015-16), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame, 2016-17), and John Collins (Wake Forest 2016-17). In most instances, few outside of the specific program expected such a drastic improvement. For example, raise your hand if you had Collins pegged as one of the ACC’s top three players last October. Thought so. Still, sometimes we can project significant leaps in production by looking at advanced statistics for players who are poised to see an increase in minutes and/or usage this season. For instance, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson surprised many observers by becoming a First Team All-ACC member as a junior. But if you closely examine his sophomore campaign statistics — 122.0 Offensive Rating, 58.7 percent true shooting percentage — it’s easy to see why his contributions shot up with a corresponding increase in playing time. In the first of this two-part series, here’s our list of potential breakout juniors in the ACC this season. The breakout sophomores will publish tomorrow.

Junior Jumps

1) Terance Mann – Florida State – 25.0 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 120.1 ORtg, 61.1% 2FG.

Florida State’s Terance Mann is a prime candidate to have a breakout junior season.
(Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports)

With the departures of Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes from the Seminoles’ roster, there are going to be a lot of available possessions for the remaining players this season. We would advise head coach Leonard Hamilton to give as many of those touches to Mann as he can handle. In addition to the 2016-17 statistics listed above, the versatile wing also excels on the boards (8.6% offensive rebound rate) and at getting to the foul line (45.0% FT rate). Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Burning Questions: NC State Wolfpack

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 26th, 2017

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Can Kevin Keatts compete in his first season in Raleigh?

Former head coach Mark Gottfried managed to get NC State to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four seasons in Raleigh, but life on the bubble proved very stressful. After logging back-to-back losing seasons the next two years, Gottfried was fired following last season. His replacement, the highly impressive Kevin Keatts, will begin his fourth year as a head coach. After three seasons as an assistant to Rick Pitino at Louisville, Keatts wasted no time in turning around a UNC-Wilmington program that had experienced six straight losing seasons. The Seahawks won 18 games in his first season on the bench en route to a share of the CAA regular season championship in 2014-15, and followed that up with two more conference championships and corresponding trips to the NCAA Tournament. UNC-Wilmington came away from those experiences with an 0-2 record, but not without putting serious scares into ACC powers Duke and Virginia.

Can Kevin Keatts compete in season one in Raleigh? (Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Turning the Wolfpack around won’t be easy, as NC State loses its top three scorers from last season. Still, the cupboard for Keatts is hardly bare. The returning core is led by 6’8″ senior Abdul-Malik Abu, who averaged 12.0 points and seven rebounds per game last season. The athletic big man improved his effective field goal percentage (52.9%) for the third straight season and should benefit from the guards attacking the rim in Keatts’ system. Sophomore Markell Johnson will take over point guard duties from lottery pick Dennis Smith, Jr., but he will be pushed by incoming recruit Lavarr Batts, Jr. (who originally committed to VCU but ended up in Raleigh after Will Wade took the LSU job). Keatts will ask a lot of both players, especially on the defensive end in becoming a nuisance for opposing point guards. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Offseason Storylines to Follow

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 28th, 2017

Now that we are back in the midst of the long offseason, it’s time to look at some key ACC storylines to keep an eye on in coming months.

NCAA Punishments (Maybe): Rinse – Recycle – Repeat! This has become an annual bullet point on the ACC offseason storyline list, but maybe it will be the last time we have to include it pertaining to North Carolina and Louisville. The North Carolina academic scandal investigation — which has now dragged on for nearly half a decade — may finally be moving toward a conclusion. Despite the best efforts of UNC’s Four Corners stalling strategy, a recent letter from NCAA infractions committee chairman Greg Sankey indicated that a hearing has been scheduled for mid-August. Still, as we are all aware given the prolonged nature of this case, nothing has proceeded at more than a snail’s pace to this point.

Rick Pitino and Louisville are still waiting on the NCAA to rule on the school’s 2015 stripper scandal. (Jamie Rhodes – USA TODAY Sports)

Louisville’s stripper scandal is a much less complicated case so it seems to be closer to a resolution. The school recently held its own hearing with the NCAA infractions committee and a commonly held belief is that the NCAA will have its final answer on penalties in about two months. The school’s argument that Rick Pitino should not be charged with failure to monitor his assistant coach has already been rejected by the NCAA, so barring a late reprieve, expect the Cardinals’ head coach to serve a suspension at some point next season.

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